Town set to prohibit tobacco use by teens

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— It will be illegal for minors in Hayden to smoke, chew tobacco or possess any tobacco products under a proposal that is one step away from becoming law.

After a heated public dialogue about a teen-smoking problem in Hayden, the Town Board drafted an ordinance that outlaws the possession and use of cigarettes by minors. Under the ordinance, tobacco use is identified as a significant threat to the health and safety of minors.

A survey by a doctor in Steamboat Springs indicated that more than 40 percent of Hayden teen-agers smoke. The high school principal has said he believes the rate is closer to 50 percent.

Using their municipal police powers, the town trustees drafted the no-smoking ordinance.

Although ordinance No. 492 is still in draft form, the intent and aims of the new law have been generally accepted by the Hayden Town Board and community members. Residents can expect it to be made final at the next Town Board meeting on June 1.

People who spoke at the last town meeting generally agreed that an ordinance is necessary to make it illegal for minors to possess and use tobacco products. State law makes it illegal for those younger than 18 to purchase tobacco products.

According to the as-yet unapproved town ordinance, it is unlawful, within the limits of Hayden, for any minor to possess or use any tobacco product in any capacity including holding or carrying a lighted pipe, cigar or cigarette containing tobacco products.

Minors caught breaking the law would be fined, but the amount of that fine has not been determined yet.

Disagreements at the last Town Board meeting involved a group of residents who believed the official age designating a "minor" should be set at 19.

"If folks are truly serious about curtailing smoking at the high school, 19 is just a better age. The age of 19 is used for this purpose in both Utah and Iowa, I believe," resident Bill Hayden said. "But I guess sometimes half a loaf is better than no loaf at all."

Hayden Town Manager Rob Straebel said the discussion was worthwhile.

"We ultimately decided upon the age of 18 to define a non-minor, because we define consenting adults as 18 years and older," he said. "The state ordinance to purchase cigarettes also uses the age of 18."

Hayden resident Lambert Pitney did not attend the meeting, but he has previously made public his opinions on the teen smoking issue. Pitney supported the town's effort.

"I'm all for the 18-year-old age limit," he said. "An ordinance with the age of 19 on it would never get through because 18 is the age of consenting adults. To keep smoking out of the high schools, when 18-year-olds can still smoke, we'll have to start catching those 18-year-olds who are selling tobacco products to minors."

Teen smokers who don't use discretion as to when and where they smoke are what seem to be most hurtful to the community, Pitney added.

"Some of these kids don't use any discretion, and the elementary school kids see them as an example of what they are growing up to become," he said. "The ordinance, hopefully, will keep these smokers out of the public eye, and out of young children's eyes. And police are going to jump on the smokers until they mellow out and start using more discretion."

High school principal Nick Schafer is not sure that the ordinance will actually convince teen smokers to quit using tobacco products, but he is confident that the ordinance will do much to push teen smoking out of the public eye and out of the view of impressionable elementary students.

Young people who would be impacted by the new ordinance are encouraged to attend the next Town Board meeting at 7:30 pm June 1 at the Hayden Town Hall.

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4205 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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